Risk Management

The Profession

Ken Davis, the director of risk management for Nuverra Environmental Solutions, says the industry is getting better at education, but still has room to grow.
By: | August 3, 2015 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Country club pool monitor, age 15.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

My first insurance-related job was as a claims assistant at AIG. I started off as a workers’ compensation claims assistant then moved into claims adjuster roles, and ultimately ended up handling the Swift Transportation account for the TPA I worked for. After some time, I was asked by Swift to come aboard and become their workers’ comp claims manager. That’s really where the doors to risk management opened up for me.

R8-15p54_TheProfession.inddI worked closely with the director of risk management as well as the VP of risk, litigation and claims. I was also working with the finance department and with other lines of coverage, as well as with insurance-related items including the creation of a captive. My first risk job title was in 2008 at a company called Total Transit, and the rest is history, though I’ve always kept claims as part of my job function.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

I’d say educatiing the next generation of risk professionals. I think through the local chapters of RIMS (I’m president of the Arizona chapter), good education and resources are being provided for risk managers in their communities.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?


Oddly enough, the answer is the same. Employers, insurers and insurance brokers could be doing a better job of educating risk managers today. As I understand it, in the ’80s and even ’90s, the insurance community was so driven toward education — the breadth of knowledge of the people who are now nearing retirement age is huge.  Now the training you are receiving is coming from places like RIMS and outside resources rather than learning through the companies you work for.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

San Diego, close to a decade ago. Why: Location, location, location. San Diego has the infrastructure, hotels, restaurants and everything you need to hold as many risk people as attend.

R&I: How do you grade the insurance industry’s response to the threat of cyber attacks?

I think the insurance industry is trying to do its best to warn risk managers of the potential threats involved, but the trouble is that there is still such a lack of understanding related to cyber risk. I think we still don’t comprehend the true exposure.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

There are so many excellent carriers, it’s too difficult to pick a single one.

R&I: How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

I would say greater than 90 percent of our insurannce is transacted through a broker.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

My thought here is that no matter what, the controversy itself increased transparency and that is an excellent result. As long as I know what I’m paying for and what people are getting out of it, I’m OK with it.

Ken Davis, director of risk management, Nuverra Environmental Solutions

Ken Davis, director of risk management, Nuverra Environmental Solutions

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

I’m very cautious about the economy. There are so many variables that play into it; it’s no longer just about the U.S. economy since our economy is tied into the global status. Today you’ve got the Middle East, Greece, etc. — name the country and name the issue, whether it’s travel, oil, or concerns about hacking into various infastructures.

There are just a number of different factors to acknowlege and be mindful of. Nuverra is not global but is closely tied to oil and gas so these issues touch us every day.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I’ve had many mentors who have helped me develop my skills over the years, but I would point to a woman by the name of Belinda Lopes. Belinda probably had the largest impact on me. Despite being busy with her own career, she was always willing to stop what she was doing and educate me.

For me it’s been critical to my success and one of the reasons I ended up trying to give back to the people that work with me.

If you don’t take the time to do that, what’s the legacy that you’re leaving?

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

My family. I’ve got a wonderful family and two girls that are remarkable and one is graduating from the eighth grade today. Everything that I do in life is for my girls. I am so proud of the young women they are becoming and I am so excited to see their accomplishments in life.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Nick’s Italian in Scottsdale.

R&I: What is the most unusual or interesting places you have ever visited?

Next month, I’m headed to Denmark, Germany and Austria. It will be my first time in Europe. Ask me when I get back!

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Marriage — and skydiving.  Both are life and death activities.


R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

I used to work at a fire and ambulance company. So I would say our first responders. They put their lives on the line every single day.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I love looking at a situation, evaluating the risk, and working with a team to evaluate the issues. It’s very rewarding to see how you were able to mitigate or completely avoid an exposure.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

My kids think that I pretend to be a lawyer and a doctor.

R&I: Why a doctor?

Just because dealing with workers’ compensation, there are so many medical issues.

R&I: And why a lawyer?

Dealing so much with litigation and mediation and because of some of the lingo I’ve picked up dealing with attorneys all the time … or maybe because I like to argue.

Janet Aschkenasy is a freelance financial writer based in New York. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]